Tag Archives: disabilities

Revelations

30 Apr

Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

     Seeing this quote recently reminded me of a profound shared experience that I had in graduate school. I was taking a class called Writing Children’s Literature, where we studied methods of writing for children, as well as exemplary children’s books we could use in teaching and learning. Our professor, being one of the belief that the best writing comes from within, assigned us the task of writing a personal essay about a defining moment in our lives, using some of the techniques learned in the class. 

Let me say to start, that coming from a lower-middle class family, (and at times lower than that), I had some prejudices against people who had more money than me. People who had their college education paid for, who hadn’t started working at 13 in order to buy nicer clothes and the “stuff” that teenage girls need. So sometimes I’d look at my classmates and judge them , think of how lucky they were. How easy they had it compared to me, especially when I factored in the fake leg thing. I would look around and think that no one around me had any inkling of how hard life could be. 

Those prejudices were shattered on the last day of class, when our professor had us read aloud our personal essays. I listened intently as each person shared his story, words we had labored over all semester. Some stories were funny, some sentimental. But the majority were stories of pain and sadness and harsh reality:  The young woman who told of the death of her grandmother, and painstakingly recounted a recipe for memories, the steps they’d taken each month, making homemade baklava;  an older woman who shared the loss of her childhood, having been in and out of hospitals her whole life for bone-lengthening operations; the 22-year old cancer survivor who told of how learning to play the organ gave her solace and hope, while going through treatment–I still get chills thinking about that one. By the end of the class, I had heard so many stories filled with tragedy, that I was bawling, red-faced and snot-nosed, cursing my teacher for not having tissues. 

The power of that day resides within me. Never in one moment have I felt so enlightened, yet so ridiculously stupid at the same time. I know it sounds cheesy, but I hadn’t truly realized until that moment that people are, inherently, more alike than different. I realized how selfish I’d been in my thinking. We all have shared experiences and  universal truths. Pain, death, and tragedy affect us all.  “Everybody’s Got Their Something” (The quote’s a bit out of context compared with the Nikka Costa song of the same title, but I think  it’s fitting here). To this day, I wish that everyone could have the same type of revelatory experience–it just might help people understand one another better.

Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Sent from my iPad

Fake legs in the movies

20 Aug

 

Movie Blog

 
“My name is Amber, I’ve got Hepatitis B, a mad case of bedbugs, and I’m rockin’ one leg.”  If you don’t recognize them, these are the words of Amy Poehler’s tragically funny one-legged character on SNL. Every time I saw one of her skits, I couldn’t decide whether  to be offended or not, because while she was extremely proud, cocky even, about her one-legged status, she was also kind of pitiful and cringeworthy. SNL put Amber in such unlikely scenarios as contestant on “America’s Top Model” and “Rock of Love” as she hops around, burps and farts unapologetically. She has a white-trash wardrobe, a “hardcore learning disability”, and she falls over a lot.  So again, while she “owns” the fact that she has one leg, she also “owns” every other disgusting characteristic. So is her audience supposed to see one-legged people as disgusting? I’m not sure. 
     There are many movies and TV shows that have had one-legged characters throughout the years, and most of them, I appreciate. It seems that in any movies that have a main character with a disability, it’s always some inspirational story of overcoming obstacles, but I’m not talking about those;  I’m talking about the funny, adventurous ones.
     “Friends” character Joey accidentally throwing his date’s fake leg into the fire because he thought it was a log? Hilarious. A gunfight scene in “Darkman” where one of the guys takes off his leg to use it as a machine gun? Awesome (I always wanted a shoe phone like Max in “Get Smart” by the way). Rose McGowan’s fake-legged stripper character in”Grindhouse/Planet Terror”,  whose new boyfriend makes her a futuristic machine gun prosthetic? Badass!
     But there are some not-so-awesome scenes with fake-legged characters, too. The scene in Stephen King’s mini-series version of “The Stand” where an old dude gets beaten to death with his own fake leg? NOT cool-got me started thinking that it would really SUCK if that happened to me one day. The otherwise beautiful girl who has to call “Ace Bigelow: Male Gigolo” because she has a fake leg and can’t get a date? Puh-leeeez! That could be further than the truth. I never had a problem finding dates, and all attractive ones, thank you very much. Although I did start wondering after college, if some of those guys dated me just so they could say they went out with a girl with a fake leg. 
     And my tiny pinkie–I told you it’d be making a cameo in this post. Remember, most everyone I meet thinks it’s cute, so I never had any reason to feel self-conscious about it UNTIL I saw Chris Elliot in “Scary Movie 2” who has a tiny little deformed hand with tiny fingers poking out. And yes, his character is kinda gross…he stirs cake batter with his little hand while everyone in the movie winces. After that I started wondering, what if people see my little hand and think it’s freaky, not cute? And that made me sad. 
      But, I think it’s pretty easy for people, in general, to be offended by things they see in movies that “hit a little too close to home”. And people’s opinions of movies/tv shows, are in actuality, very subjective. What one fake-legged person sees as funny, another may abhor. And I really doubt that any of my friends see Amy Poehler’s Amber and think of me! The reason I’m not completely offended by it, is that I KNOW people are different; people find different things funny. 
     I guess my rule of thumb (or tiny pinkie) for judging the portrayal of characters with disabilities is the same as it is in real life. In real life, I believe in free speech. I don’t have to agree with everything a person says-I can have my own opinion about it and they still have the right to say it. If someone makes a movie you don’t like, you don’t have to watch it. But if a person or group is spewing hatred or untruths, or are personally hurting, bullying, making fun of, or mocking someone, that is where I draw the line.  Sometimes mean can be funny, but sometimes mean is just mean.